Countrywide boss backs bid

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The Independent Online

The chairman of Countrywide, the country's largest estate agents, will this week urge shareholders to back a £950m takeover in the wake of criticism by a US investor.

Artisan Partners, a US investment manager which owns more than 7 per cent, wrote to Countrywide'schairman and non-executive directors saying that a planned takeover deal from a management team backed by 3i Group, did not reflect "full and fair value" to shareholders.

But Christopher Sporborg, the outgoing chairman, told The Independent yesterday the share price would fall sharply if investors rejected the offer of 490p a share plus a stake in the Rightmove website.

"I have spoken with Artisan and they take the view Countrywide is undervalued by the market ... and they are prepared to take a 12-year view over which period it will be re-rated," he said.

"It strikes me as being a slightly optimistic hope based on the past and this offer, which has been recommended by the directors, is a great deal better than a share price of £4, which is where it is going if this deal does not happen."

Shareholders are due to vote on the offer later this month.